Recently, Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (MDCALA) joined NFIB in an effort to poll Maryland small businesses owners across the state. The poll’s results are eye raising even for those of us who expected small businesses to express concerns about the litigation environment in our state.
Ninety-one percent of survey respondents said that lawsuits filed against businesses have a negative impact on business growth and prosperity in Maryland, with two-thirds (66 percent) responding that the number of liability lawsuits is increasing.
Thirty percent of survey respondents reported that they have been sued in the past five years, while 42 percent said they have been threatened with a lawsuit during the same period. Even if they have not been personally sued, 8 out of 10 respondents are concerned that their businesses might be sued in the next five years.
The threat of a lawsuit alone can have disastrous consequences, according to the survey. Respondents reported that a lawsuit or the threat of a lawsuit has impacted their business by:
- · Raising their costs (58 percent);
- · Forcing them to restrict, reduce or change products or services offered to their customers (55 percent);
- · Making their products or services more expensive (45 percent); and
- · Leading them to consider closing their business (14 percent).
The survey confirmed dramatically what those of us arguing for legal reform have thought for a long time. Our small business community provides the majority of jobs in our state. It is not too much to say they are under siege through higher taxes and greater regulation. Another constant thorn in their side is the growing culture of lawsuit abuse that infects our society. In the same week that our story was released in the Maryland Dailey Record there was a story about a pool and spa business that was sued by a woman who was felled outside of the story by a hissing Canadian Goose.
This story epitomizes the problems small business face every day. Talk about “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”. Where is this mindset coming from? There is a persistent and growing culture of blame that is killing the concept of personal responsibility. You remember personal responsibility don’t you? If we are not careful it will go the way of the buggy whip- something our grandparents tell us about and we sit in slack jawed wonder that such a thing ever existed at all. This new paradigm of non-responsibility is bad enough in and of itself, but its consequences reach beyond the obvious. When we sue for anything we might once have chalked up to an honest mistake, we impose unnecessary burdens on the job makers in our state, clog our courts, and delay justice for the truly injured.